COMMISSIONERS SPECIAL MEETING
The special meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners was brought to order by Commissioner Clark at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday June 16, 2020. The Commissioners attended remotely using a Zoom meeting. County Administrator Scott Adkins and Deputy County Administrator Rebekah Knowlton were also in attendance, as well as several Department Heads. The meeting link was made available to the public on the Hancock County website; more than 5 dozen members of the public attended.
Adjustments to / approval of agenda:
MOTION: reserve time to discuss any public comments (Blasi/Wombacher 2-1, motion passed, Clark opposed)
Commissioner Clark said he did not understand what the motion was for, as the agenda allows for public comment already, so he opposed the motion. Commissioner Wombacher suggested that if a large number of people wished to speak, a separate public meeting at a later date where issues could be addressed in a better manner than over a Zoom call might be appropriate. Commissioner Clark said that the County Administrator is compiling a file of written comments regarding the Sheriff’s riot gear agenda item and suggested that, in the interest of getting those comments on the record, the public submit those comments to the County Administrator. Our Zoom account allows for a limited number of participants. Written comments will be part of the record and available for review.
MOTION: hear all public comments that wish to speak today (Blasi/motion fails for lack of a second
Commissioner Clark questioned the necessity of this motion.
There was some discussion regarding the process of public comment in a Zoom setting; it presented a logistical challenge as there were 66 participants. Commissioner Wombacher again suggested a separate meeting in order to better manage participation. Commissioner Clark suggested establishing a meeting time with the purpose of discussing the Sheriff’s request of riot gear. Commissioner Wombacher agreed that a meeting dedicated to that purpose would be appropriate but it should be held soon. CA Adkins said participants in the Zoom chat were expressing concern about the Sheriff’s item regarding the purchase of firearms and equipment. Sheriff Kane said he agreed with Commissioner Wombacher and would support having a separate meeting for the riot gear agenda item. Sheriff Kane said the request to purchase firearms and equipment was not related to the riot gear agenda item at all; the riot gear item had been removed prior to the meeting’s commencement. He explained that the purchase of firearms and equipment was to outfit the deputy, if the Commissioners approve that hire today. This position is required to fulfill the contract with the Town of Stonington. Commissioner Blasi said the Sheriff can use the DARE Deputy for Patrol on a full time basis, the Rural Patrol Agreement is still in effect, and although budgeted, the cash flow cost at this time with an outstanding TAN is not advisable. He said the cost for officer buyout from Old Town is $18,000, his Glock pistol is $428, the Windham AR-15 rifle is $732, and the Aimpoint Optic is $469.49, among other equipment items, his salary, and benefits. Commissioner Blasi said he has personally received 26 communications and 25 to Commissioners and Sheriff requesting reduced spending on police personnel and equipment in favor of using taxpayer dollars to fund the other types of crisis management interventions that he expected to hear about in public comments today. He said he has received zero communications in favor of riot gear and firearms and equipment purchase. Sheriff Kane said he would not be able to fill the Stonington contract without this hire. Commissioner Wombacher said he thought we needed to fulfill the contract with Stonington, and referenced the changing role of the State Police that has put more strain on the Sheriff’s Department.
MOTION: Approve the hire of Marcus Downes of Hampden as Patrol Deputy, effective June 27, 2020, at step 12C (Clark/Wombacher 2-1, motion passed, Blasi opposed)
Discussion and approval of the transfer of funds for the officer buy out will occur at a subsequent meeting. Some members of the public who were present wished to make a comment before the vote was called. Commissioner Clark explained that this was not a public hearing, but a meeting for the Commissioners to conduct business and take action on County matters.
Commissioner Clark said no action was required for item C approval to purchase firearms and equipment because permission to purchase has been secured through the budget process; the Commission needs to approve the transfer of funds. This will be considered when the Commissioners have a transfer request to approve. Commissioner Wombacher said since there are so many people on the call that want to hear about the issue, the Sheriff should explain the equipment request so that people have a better understanding of it. Commissioner Clark said this allows the Sheriff to explain but does not give the public an opportunity to be heard. Commissioner Blasi said the last two comments of his earlier statement are to be applied to this agenda item and wanted them carried forward to the next discussion of this item. Commissioner Blasi requested to go to public comment at this point. Register of Deeds Julie Curtis requested that the Courthouse Reopening item be addressed first so she and other department heads could get back to work. Commissioner Clark suggested getting through the rest of the agenda, then having public comment and it could go as long as they wanted. Commissioner Wombacher agreed. Deputy CA Knowlton suggested compiling a list of those who wished to speak. Commissioners Clark and Wombacher agreed. Commissioner Wombacher said this was a very unusual circumstance; even with the most contentious issues we’ve only had one-third of this number wishing to make a public comment and we have to show enough flexibility to hear everyone’s voice and also get the business of the meeting done.
MOTION: Approve the minutes of the June 2, 2020 Commissioners’ Regular Meeting (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Courthouse reopening- CA Adkins reported that we are prepared to reopen, whenever the Commission establishes that date. When working with the public, employees will be expected to wear masks, in addition to the physical distancing requirements. Although County offices are still closed, there is no reduction in services to the public. CA Adkins said that we have a supply of masks and have instituted additional cleaning and sanitizing. The commission agreed to discuss this again during the July 7 meeting. Sheriff Kane said his office has a supply of neck gaiters that can be used as face coverings and offered them to other employees. Court marshals are monitoring people entering the building and providing masks; they have reported 100% compliance with the public.
To remain consistent with the governor’s latest guidelines, the Commission agreed to allow out of state travel for employees traveling to New Hampshire and Vermont. The 14 day mandatory quarantine for traveling outside of the State of Maine will not apply to travel to New Hampshire and Vermont.
MOTION: Appoint William Eberhardt of Orland to the Airport Advisory Committee, to fill the term previously held by Kelly Bouchard, until December 31, 2022 (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
This is a seat from Commissioner Wombacher’s district.
Essential Air Services proposals-
Four proposals were submitted: Southern Airways Express, Silver Airways, Boutique Air, and Cape Air. The Commissioners directed Airport Manager Muise and CA Adkins to develop a matrix that breaks down the critical information from the proposals so the Commissioners can make a comparison. The Commissioners will review the Airport Advisory Committee’s recommendation and the matrix for action at the July 7 meeting.
Several members of the public expressed concern about how public comment would be incorporated into the meeting if it was held when the business of the meeting was done. Commissioner Clark said it would remain part of the record. CA Adkins said any votes taken by the Commission can be reversed by the Commission after hearing public comment; the Commissioners have the opportunity to change their minds if they wish.
MOTION: continue the National Incident Management Proclamation adopted by the Commissioners in 2017 (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Deputy EMA Director Andrew Braley explained that in 2017 the County adopted the National Incident Management System. This is a reaffirmation that this remains the best federal guidance and best practices to make sure that Hancock County is aligned with other state, local, and federal resources for managing incidents on any scale.
MOTION: Approve Patrol Deputies’ Bonds, the Chief Deputy’s Bond, and the Sheriff’s Bond as requested by DA Matt Foster (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: approve a 30 day extension of leave of absence without pay for Nancy Pelletier (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: approve the renewal of the Snow Removal Agreement with Michael J. Barry d/b/a Barry’s Trucking (Blasi/Wombacher 2-1, Clark opposed, motion passed)
Commissioner Clark said he opposed the motion based upon a technical issue regarding process.
Deputy CA Knowlton reported that Maine Municipal Association has a program called Workers Compensation Safety Incentive Program which provides incentive credits for reaching certain benchmarks. The Commissioners agreed to participate in the program.
MOTION: participate in the Workers Compensation Safety Incentive Program with Maine Municipal Association (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
Full audio of this meeting’s public comment is recorded in the Zoom meeting video file.
The following members of the public offered public comment in opposition to the Sheriff’s agenda requests and many commented on the meeting process:
MOTION: add to the next meeting agenda a discussion of community crisis intervention committee (Blasi/Wombacher 2-0 motion passed, Clark was not present for discussion of the motion and did not vote)
Commissioner Blasi said the discussion should include whether some of the funds that would go toward the deputy would be used for this or if there is simply enough volunteer energy to staff the committee. He said the committee should be installed as an operating committee such as the safety committee. Sheriff Kane requested that the proposal for the committee, with thoughts and recommendations, be submitted in advance in order to expedite things. Leslie Ross, of Restorative Justice Committee said this was not prepared but they would work on something to submit.
After public comment Commissioner Clark asked if Commissioners Blasi and Wombacher would like to reconsider their vote for the motion to hire a deputy. Commissioner Wombacher said he agreed with the vast majority of the public calling in regarding how the process of public comment was handled. He said he did not have a different feeling on the vote to hire a deputy to fill the Stonington contract; he said this is separate from the request for the riot gear, which he opposes. He said the people in the Town of Stonington, one of the towns in his district, deserve to have a person to patrol the town. Commissioner Wombacher said he did not see this as a spot to defund the Sheriff’s Department and that he was a little bit unsure about the how people use the term defunding while keeping public safety paramount, but it is a good discussion and he is willing to have it around budget time and he encouraged those present to take a more active role in the budget process. He said he supports the Sheriff’s request for a Deputy; it’s a good thing for the County, and it’s the right thing to do. There is added pressure on the Sheriff’s Department to cover a larger area because of reduced coverage by the State Police. He said he agreed that the vote should not have been taken when it was and apologized for that. Commissioner Blasi said there did not seem to be a move to reconsider the vote but still wanted his statement in the record. Commissioner Clark said he agreed with Commissioner Wombacher. Commissioner Clark said the decision to hire the deputy was not to increase the patrol staff for the Sheriff’s Department, but to accommodate the Town of Stonington’s request for better police protection for their community.
Leslie Ross said that Downeast Restorative Justice will put together a proposal and welcomed input. She asked people to contact her about what they would like to see in that proposal. CA Adkins said anyone interested in participation in the committee should contact him, Deputy CA Knowlton, or Leslie Ross.
MOTION: to adjourn 11:28 (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
Deputy County Administrator